When it comes to planning a holiday spread, a salad is often an afterthought. Stately roasts, crowd-pleasing potatoes and sultry pies tend to grab the spotlight, and by the time we think, "Oh, yeah, we should probably have a salad," a bag of mixed lettuces and a container of cherry tomatoes might be all we have the mental bandwidth for.

But there are good reasons to give salad its due consideration. A salad adds some critical lightness and crunch to a hearty meal. It can also be one of the vegetarian offerings that help non-meat-eaters make a real dinner out of what is often a meat-centered holiday feast.

Salads can also be out-and-out beautiful, with very little work. Here, a few types of lettuces mingle with slivers of red onion, tart apples and cranberries, and creamy goat cheese, tied together with a zippy dressing. You could add some chopped pecans or walnuts, or slivered almonds on top if you like (skip this if you are concerned that any of your guests have nut allergies!).

This stunner comes together in 20 minutes, and is a bowl of vibrant color and texture that seems anything but a postscript to the menu.

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WINTER GREENS, APPLE, CRANBERRY AND GOAT CHEESE SALAD WITH SHERRY-MUSTARD DRESSING

Servings: 4

Start to finish: 20 minutes

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SHERRY-MUSTARD DRESSING

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon smooth or coarse Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

SALAD

1 large head Belgian endive, thinly sliced crosswise

3 cups baby spinach

1 cup baby arugula

1/2 red onion, thinly slivered

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1 Granny Smith apple

1/2 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

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In a container, place the olive oil, vinegar, Dijon, honey, and salt and pepper. Shake to combine well.

In a large bowl, place the endive, spinach, arugula and onions. Quarter and core the apple, then slice crosswise into thin slices. Add the apples and about 3/4 of the cranberries to the bowl, and toss to combine. Shake the dressing once more, drizzle it over, and toss to coat the salad with the dressing.

Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and sprinkle the remaining cranberries and the goat cheese over it. Serve.

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Nutrition information per serving: 222 calories; 130 calories from fat; 14 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 17 mg cholesterol; 449 mg sodium; 17 g carbohydrate; 8 g fiber; 8 g sugar; 6 g protein.

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Katie Workman has written two cookbooks focused on easy, family-friendly cooking, "Dinner Solved!" and "The Mom 100 Cookbook." She blogs at http://www.themom100.com/about-katie-workman. She can be reached at Katie@themom100.com.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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